Balancing the costs of being a mystic, there are the benefits. A most unusual approach to understanding reality is one.
For every seen definition of life, there are unseen definitions. Corners around which reveal if not a completely different reality, than, at the very least, a distinct lens through which to look at it.
It’s a way of thought that most often supplies reasons. As though God, for the most part, keeps the mechanics of his creation well hidden under the skin of the truth of the matter. Why he does this is perhaps a study for another mystic.
And I will admit to wondering if knowing some of these hidden natures of things would change the world in any way.
There are reasons and benefits to reducing one’s attachment to things in life. The seen explanation about this focuses on strengthening one’s discipline, honing the contour of the soul to increase spiritual endurance. It is viewed as following the will of God, as though God were a Marine drill sergeant.
The unseen explanation has more to do with spiritual survival. The life of the soul, as it were.
Each and every thing that we attach ourselves to, that we decide to possess, becomes a living and vibrant reflection of our selves. It (or he) will absorb our vibrations (sorry) and begin to hum our song into the universe.
If you are evil, then all it has to do is follow the song to you.
If you are someone that takes your spirituality seriously, someone who prays regularly and presses your kindness into the world around you, in turn, evil is going to take you very seriously. Even little, old ladies who manage food banks are not exempt. Or men who coach little league, making sure each player has a turn at bat.
Evil does not like people whose actions through their ministrations directly increases the power of other people’s souls. Or, technically, they like the increase of energy in that person’s soul, it just wants it for itself.
But evil especially does not want the soul of the world strengthened. That would mean that evil would be warded off, dispensed with.
So weak, frail souls are good in the eyes of evil. And diminishing those who not only keep their own souls fit, but support others around them, are bright targets for evil.
Think of a well kept, opulent house, full of goodies. It will serve as a magnet for thieves.
Similarly, our sanctity, achieved through arbor and commitment, is in the unseen world, a spiritual dartboard.
So, back to asceticism. We, as humans, like to think of this concept in terms of absolutism. Eat no meat. Pray every minute of the day. Sleep standing up.
The Olympic training for the soul.
My approach, however, is more like challenges of camping out in the middle of enemy territory: don’t want to be seen, don’t hang a lot of lanterns around your tent.
As I’ve already written, what we attach ourselves to becomes extensions of our spirituality. In the unseen world, anything (or body) we love becomes an ornament that hangs on our soul.
For me, it’s not about trying to become an Arnold Schwarzenegger of the soul. It’s about doing my best to keep a very low profile.
These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.
(Or, I’m not the soul you’re looking for. Really.)
The biggest trouble with attachments is that they can be used by evil. They can be transformed into traps. Unconsciously, you may come to a point of not wanting to live without whatever-it-is. And then, just like in the movies, a little trade is set.
You give me a bit of your soul energy, I’ll give you a bit more time with It.
And because we have no sense of our soul, let alone its energy level, it’s just a shrug for us to let some of it go.
And it’s not until our levels have become so low that we no longer get up for church or make it down to the community center to play basketball with the fatherless boys that we might take notice. Except at these points we don’t tend to look within, as in, what have I done to my soul to make me act this way?, but look around us confounded. What has happened?
Where has my joy and passion gone?
Well, they’re not under the couch.
Think of it as looking down one day and seeing your expanded waistline. You don’t look around and demand, Who did this to me? or Is it because you don’t love me anymore that I’m like this?
You just get on a scale. Frown. And start exercising again.
And you might stop drinking fancy coffee that has more calories in it than you could possibly use all day.
And you slim down.
With the soul, you get down on your knees. You pray even though your mind is on your golf game. You keep your commitments to the homeless shelter.
According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, asceticism comes from the Greek word, askesis, which means practice, bodily exercise, and more especially, athletic training.
For me all that means is learning detachment. Learning to let go of things without breaking your heart. Committing yourself to strengthening your soul as though it were your body. Spiritual health begins with a small act on our part. Just a prayer. Saying, thank you.
But even then, be cautioned. If you read the Desert Fathers you will know that even though they stripped themselves of almost everything, they still wrestled with devils. They still had spiritual warfare to contend with.
The best thing is to remain aware of your soul. How you are doing. If you can smile at God during the day, you’re good.
If you can’t, take some time for silence. Or for some heart-felt conversation. Or for whatever will bring serenity to your soul.
It’s not about wondering about your relationship with God, your guilt and innocence, his judgment of you.
It’s about remaining flexible enough for the dance.